Nasal sprays are one of the options which people have for using sinus medications, although they certainly aren’t the only options. To deal with the symptoms of congestion and facial pressure or headaches, there are several things which can be done, including home remedies as well as prescription medications. In this article, some of the options for dealing with sinus problems will be described, with special emphasis on nasal sprays as one of the most common treatment options.
Possible Options for Sinus Treatment
Treatments for sinus problems fall into three general categories, those being home remedies and over-the-counter medications, daily prescription sinus medications, and medications for sinus infections. The first group of treatment options starts with drinking more water, which is something that every sinus sufferer can do right at home.
If you can drink between eight and 12 glasses of water every day, it will help to thin out the material which needs to drain, and will improve your sinus function. For people using antihistamines or nasal sprays, this can be especially important, because those treatments will have the effect of drying out your throat and your nose, making hydration more important.
A second over-the-counter option is to use sinus rinses, usually comprised of distilled water and salt, and which you can easily prepare yourself. These are available in all drugstores as sinus rinse kits, and all you have to do is follow the instructions on the label in order to prepare your sinus rinse. The instructions will generally call for you to prepare your sinus rinse over a sink two times a day, those being in the morning after you wake up, and at night before you go to bed.
One thing that’s important to remember about using sinus rinses, is that they have to be used before you use any kind of antihistamine spray or nasal steroid, because otherwise these would be washed away, and would lose their positive effects.
One last thing you can do in the way of over-the-counter treatment is to purchase from your drugstore an antihistamine, of which there are several very effective name brands on the market, including Zyrtec, Mucinex, and Claritin-D.
The next category of sinus treatments are daily prescription sinus medications. Among the nasal steroid sprays, some of the most effective are Flonase, Omnaris, Veramyst, and Nasonex. Your doctor might also prescribe an antihistamine nasal spray such as Patanase or Astepro to deal with your sinuses. Another prescription treatment would be a combination antihistamine spray and steroid, such as Singulair or Dymista.
The last grouping of sinus treatments are those which are intended to deal with sinus infections. These include antibiotics, oral steroids such as prednisone, brand-name medications such as Sudafed or Afrin, and sinus rinses.
The Difference Between Over-the-Counter Sprays and Prescription Nasal Sprays
Some nasal steroids are available both as over-the-counter medications and as prescribed medications from your doctor. These are recommended to be used only for conditions which tend to be chronic in nature, for instance seasonal rhinitis or chronic sinusitis.
These kinds of sprays can help remediate many of the symptoms associated with those two conditions, including the runny nose, the itchy nose, the persistent sneezing and the congestion which is frequently experienced by a sufferer. In addition to sinus infections, these nasal sprays can also handle seasonal allergies and the symptoms of a common cold, although it usually requires up to two weeks of daily use before the maximum benefits of these sprays are realized.
Some over-the-counter nasal sprays take affect much more quickly, but these are only intended to be taken on a short-term basis. Such decongestants will ease any discomfort, and effectively reduce swelling in the nasal passageways, but should not be used for any more than about three days consecutively.
The medication in these nasal sprays actually causes tiny blood vessels, situated in the mucous membranes, to temporarily constrict, and that causes a temporary shrinkage in the nasal lining. This will immediately result in much better breathing and a general feeling of relief for the sinus sufferer.
The downside of this is that after a few days, the medication will wear off and those same blood vessels will then become severely congested, and that will require the use of more nasal spray, and on a much more frequent basis.
Can Nasal Sprays Become Addictive?
Given the description above, wherein the continued use of nasal sprays may lead to more frequent usage just to maintain the same level of free breathing, it’s natural to wonder whether such nasal sprays can become addictive.
According to the formal definition of addiction, that condition only occurs when a person is “enslaved to a habit or practice, or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma”.
Since over-the-counter nasal sprays contain no habit-forming ingredients whatsoever, and they do not trigger any of the cravings which are associated with addiction, they are not considered to be addictive drugs.
That being said, it is at least possible to develop an increased tolerance to nasal sprays over time, which means the nasal membranes become less responsive to the treatment. When that happens, you may find yourself using the nasal spray more frequently, in order to experience relief from congestion. While this is not a dangerous condition medically, it will probably become at least inconvenient, and it will of course become more costly for the patient.
Practically everyone has had to deal with a stuffy nose or nasal congestion as it is referred to medically, at various times throughout their life, and it’s never very pleasant. If it’s severe enough, it can make you feel like you can’t breathe through your nose, and must take in air through your mouth instead.
A stuffy nose can also make it difficult to get to sleep at night, it can trigger headaches, and if it persists long enough, it can leave you physically drained and fatigued from having to deal with it. Since the symptoms associated with nasal congestion can be fairly severe, it’s worthwhile to try and understand their causes, with an eye toward prevention, or at least remediation of the worst symptoms.
Causes of Nasal Congestion
Sometimes the delicate tissues inside your nose and the blood vessels which surround them can become swollen with excessive levels of fluid, and that’s the stuffy feeling people experience which feels like the nose is being blocked. Although there can be a discharge of fluid when this happens, a runny nose does not always accompany the stuffy sensation. Some of the most common causes for the stuffy nose feeling are the following:
- excessive usage of decongestants
- changes in hormone levels
- excessively dry air
- viruses and infections such as sinusitis, flu, and colds
- various kinds of allergies
- external irritants such as the smoke from tobacco, or from other airborne pollutants.
There are some other potential causes of runny noses which are less common, but still very possible:
- hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism
- some kind of foreign agent lodged in the nose
- swollen adenoids
- some kind of structural blockage as from a tumor deviated septum or polyps
- vasomotor rhinitis
- non-allergic rhinitis.
There are some home remedies you can try for the relief of nasal congestion, and some of these can be fairly effective:
- try drinking lots of water so as to thin out the mucus
- blow your nose gently
- take hot showers, which allows steam to penetrate into nasal passages
- avoid cigarette smoke and all known polluted air
- don’t expose yourself to allergic triggers
- use nasal saline sprays
- use over-the-counter antihistamines
- when the affected persons are small children or babies, try using a bulb syringe to extract any nasal secretions.
When is Medical Attention Necessary?
While home remedies can be at least somewhat effective, there are times where they simply won’t do the job, and it becomes necessary to seek medical attention. If the nasal congestion condition persists for more than 10 days or if it becomes chronic, that’s a sign that home remedies are going to be insufficient for effecting a cure.
That’s when it’s time to call your doctor and make an appointment to have your nasal congestion examined, to determine the real cause of the problem and get some proper relief. There are other times when you shouldn’t wait for 10 days to elapse but should call your doctor right away because more pressing symptoms appear, and the level of urgency is increased.
Some of those situations include the following:
- for babies, when a stuffy nose is observed, and he/she refuses to nurse
- there is a recurring discharge of clear material following some kind of head trauma or injury
- when you observe blood in a nasal discharge
- your stuffy nose is accompanied by a high fever
- nasal discharge has a greenish or yellowish color and is accompanied by either a fever or severe sinus pains.
Treatments for Nasal Congestion
Some of the best treatments for nasal congestion are available over-the-counter without a prescription from your physician. Decongestants help to diminish the swelling and nasal passages, and they can ease that sensation of sinus pressure and stuffiness. There are a great many of these available over-the-counter, and whichever one you choose, you should carefully follow all directions printed on the label. You shouldn’t use an oral decongestant for longer than a week unless you have consulted with your doctor about it. Nasal decongestants should not be used for longer than three days, or they may end up contributing to your congestion instead of diminishing it. If you have any other health problems besides your nasal congestion, you should check with your doctor about the advisability of taking a decongestant.
Antihistamines are another effective medical tool for combating nasal congestion, particularly if your nasal congestion is due to an allergy. By controlling the allergy, all other symptoms should be relieved to some extent. When you go shopping for an antihistamine, look for one which relieves sneezing and sniffling, and which includes a decongestant to manage sinus pressure and the congestion itself. Some multi-symptom cold medications contain antihistamines to relieve the runny nose part of your problem.
If you are bothered by difficulty sleeping, it might be a good choice to purchase a night-time cold medicine, because these can help manage the symptoms effectively, so that you can get a good night’s sleep.
A third option for relief of symptoms surrounding nasal congestion is a pain reliever. These won’t do anything to help clear up congestion, but they can definitely diminish pains which are associated with sinus pressure. As with both decongestants and antihistamines, you should carefully read the printed instructions on the label before using.
Almost everyone experiences a runny nose during cold and allergy season and can be a huge nuisance because it’s uncomfortable, to begin with, and it’s also inconvenient to have to keep reaching for tissues in order to try and manage it. After a few hours have gone by, and especially toward the end of the day, you can feel pretty fatigued by having had to deal with the effects of a runny nose all day long.
However, are these symptoms serious enough that you should make an appointment with your family doctor to discuss the situation? For the most part, a runny nose should clear itself up within a couple weeks, but if you find that at the end of that time you’re still dealing with tissues and that exhausted feeling, it’s probably a good idea to call your doctor to have it checked out.
Causes of a Runny Nose
What’s actually happening when you have a runny nose is that there is a great deal more drainage than usual emanating from nasal tissues and the blood vessels surrounding them. This excess drainage is usually triggered by inflammation which occurs when you contract a cold or are suffering from an allergy. Those delicate tissues become irritated and secrete far more fluid than they normally would. When that happens, the excess drainage will either go down the back of your throat, or it will come out of your nose, causing you to reach for the tissue box.
When is it Time to Call a Doctor?
Before calling your doctor and scheduling an appointment to check out your condition, there are a few things you can do at home to see if you achieve any relief from your symptoms. The first thing you can try is a nasal saline spray because this should help flush out anything irritating your nose tissue and blood vessels. An antihistamine can help reduce discomfort and other symptoms associated with an allergy. If you don’t notice any serious improvement by taking these measures, it’s probably time to contact your doctor, before things get any worse. It’s definitely time to call your doctor if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- for babies, the runny nose is making breathing difficult or causing problems with nursing
- for children aged less than two months, when a fever is evident, you should call your doctor right away
- for adults, any kind of head injury followed by a discharge of nasal blood is a warning sign
- high fever
- whenever your nose continues to be runny for a period longer than two weeks
- you notice a yellowish or greenish nasal discharge, especially if it’s accompanied by pain in your sinuses.
How a Doctor can Help Your Runny Nose
Your family doctor may be qualified to make a thorough examination of your runny nose condition, but if it is felt that a specialist is required, then someone who specializes in ear, nose, and throat will provide the best chance for identifying the cause of your runny nose. Once your situation has been diagnosed, it will probably fall into one of these categories, and will require the indicated treatment:
- Foreign object lodged in the nose – it’s possible that some tiny object of debris has become lodged in the nasal passage, and is causing serious irritation to the sinuses. This is far more prevalent in children than it is in adults because children are much more likely to insert foreign objects into crevices. When this is determined to be the cause, your doctor will have some special tools which enable him to get a clear look inside the nasal passage, and gently remove whatever object is causing the problem
- Chronic sinusitis – when your runny nose condition persists for a long period of time and recurs over and over again, you may have chronic sinusitis. In this situation, the most effective treatment is one which has recently been discovered and perfected, known as balloon sinuplasty. This is a minimally invasive procedure which inserts a small balloon on a thin wire inside your nose, to expand and discharge any infection or other unwanted materials. The procedure only takes a half hour or so, and there is very little recovery time necessary, so it has quickly become the de facto standard for treating patients with chronic sinusitis
- Deviated septum – it’s possible that there may be structural problems in your nose and that they’re preventing the normal drainage pattern you should have. If this is the case, surgery may be necessary to restructure the septum, or to remove nasal polyps which may be present, so that the condition is not allowed to persist
- Allergies – it’s pretty well-known that allergies go hand-in-hand with a runny nose, because allergens irritate your sinuses, and that causes your nose to run. One of the most common treatments for allergies is immunotherapy, which involves receiving shots to boost your body’s response to the allergy. The objective of allergy shots is to gradually get your body used to the allergen causing the irritation, so that your immune system will tolerate it better, and will not over-react and cause inflammation, which then triggers a runny nose.
The two most common causes of a loss of smell are allergies or some kind of injury to the nerve tissue from a viral upper respiratory infection. Patients who lose their sense of smell as a result of a respiratory infection will generally be able to date the time of their smell loss to the same time as the respiratory infection they experienced. In general, these tend to be older patients, and the loss of smell that they have incurred is more typically partial than total in nature.
Unfortunately, there is no effective treatment for this situation because viral damage cannot normally be repaired. While it is possible that some patients will recover their sense of smell over time, these patients are definitely in the minority, and comprise less than 20% of the total number of patients experiencing smell loss. It is however, certainly possible that people who experience temporary smell loss after an upper respiratory infection recover it within a few days of being restored to normal health from the infection.
Smell Loss from Sinuses or Allergies
The other most common cause of smell loss is rhinitis, which is an inflammation that occurs in the nose, nasal polyps, or sinusitis. All three of these are considered to be ongoing processes, in that they recur during the lifetime of the patient, and as such, have an ongoing effect on the sense of smell.
Since this is the case, the development of smell loss tends to be a much more drawn-out process, as opposed to the upper respiratory infection cases, which are more spontaneous in nature. People who are troubled with smell loss due to allergies or sinus problems often report improvements in their sense of smell on a temporary basis, for instance after vigorous exercise, showering, or some other activity which elevates one’s heart rate.
It’s also possible for temporary smell improvements to be experienced when taking corticosteroids, antibiotics, or some other kinds of medication, but, in most cases, the improvement eventually subsides, and the loss of smell returns. It’s fairly common in such cases for there to be accompanying symptoms such as post-nasal drip, problems with breathing through the nose, or nasal allergies. Interestingly, the development of smell loss does not result in a loss of taste, or at least that has not been reported by any significant number of studied patients.
For people who have experienced both an upper respiratory infection and an ongoing process like sinusitis, it will usually be very difficult to pinpoint the time of your smell loss. There is a reason, though, that dating the time of smell loss can be important, because of the two types of smell loss, only sinusitis is treatable and reversible. As previously mentioned, viral damage to the nose cannot be repaired, and that means the sense of smell will also be unlikely to improve for the vast majority of patients.
Treatments for Smell Loss
When a doctor is able to determine whether a patient’s loss of smell was triggered by allergies, there are some treatments which may help recover and restore the sense of smell. Antihistamines, antibiotics, and corticosteroids have all proven to be at least somewhat effective in restoring the sense of smell, because they work to decrease inflammation in the nasal passageways, and these are the primary causes of smell loss in the first place.
For patients who have had some physical damage to the nose, such as a deviated septum or nasal polyps, surgery may also be an option to repair the problem. However, the correlation between surgery and successful restoration of the sense of smell is not strong, so for any specific situation, a patient should discuss surgical options with their doctor.
Patients who have suffered a loss of smell following some kind of severe trauma to the nose or an upper respiratory viral illness, have very few treatment options available to them currently. Corticosteroids are sometimes used to provide benefits for some patients, but the success rate is not particularly promising.
New research has shown that attempting to retrain a person’s sense of smell can achieve modest successes, since it attempts to stimulate the regenerative capabilities of the body’s olfactory network. Part of this therapy involves exposing a patient to familiar odors which are very strong and recognizable, so as to promote the recovery of a sense of smell. The theory behind this is that it helps to rewire that area of the brain which processes smells.
Currently, research is underway to explore other avenues for the restoration of the sense of smell in patients who were thought to have experienced total loss. While medical treatments have not been shown to be universally effective, some patients have experienced small gains in their sense of smell when using phentoxifylline, gabapentin, theophylline, various antidepressants, and some kinds of antibiotics. In the future, it is likely that other treatment approaches will be discovered, and that many more patients will be able to cover some sense of smell even after a traumatic upper respiratory viral infection.
The nasal fluid produced by your body is known as mucus, although it has many more colorful names which younger people are especially fond of using. Contrary to popular belief, nasal fluid is not an offensive fluid from the body, and is not something that should be thought of as poorly as it is. In truth, nasal fluiid is one of the body’s most important lines of defense, playing a critical role in the protection against infections and various types of irritants.
What Exactly is Mucus?
Everyone is aware that our noses are used to smell things, but that’s certainly not the only role they play in human health. Their role, which not many people actually consider, is as a protection against inbound irritants, and in this capacity, mucus is one of the most important agents involved in the protection process.
Most people recognize mucus as a runny, nasty-looking substance that often dribbles out of the nose, but in actuality, it’s a very complex substance that works hard to keep sinuses and the interior of the nose moist. There are components of mucus which determine its thickness, elasticity, and stickiness, all of which are important in its role as defender against incoming irritation. Most people produce between one pint and one quart of mucus each and every day.
What Mucus Does
The primary role of mucus is to trap incoming irritation such as animal dander, pollen, mold, smoke, and bacterial substances. By smoothing the lining of the nose and trapping all these types of foreign substances and debris, they are prevented from reaching the interior respiratory system where a great deal of damage could be done. The vast majority of mucus is simply swallowed, along with all the material that it may have trapped. Whatever those foreign substances were, they become neutralized in the gastrointestinal tract, and are then expelled from the body.
This is the more invisible component of mucus removal, and not the one people commonly associate with the process. The more visible process for mucus removal is blowing your nose into a handkerchief, and this of course removes all unwanted material without the need for having it processed in the interior of the body. However, as stated above, this occurs far less frequently than the swallowing process, where most unwanted debris is managed.
Normal Mucus Content
Most of the time, people don’t really think about mucus or what is contained in it, and this is perfectly normal, because it should be unnoticeable if everything in the body is as it should be. Healthy mucus is colorless and is typically quite watery and thin. In the absence of any disease or infections in the body, the cilia of the nose move very gently in tiny waves to move mucus, along with any trapped materials, toward the back of the throat.
These cilia have been compared to tiny brooms which sweep materials clear of nasal passages to keep the breathing process running smoothly. When sinuses are in a good state of health, they are typically empty, because these cilia are working constantly to remove mucus and trapped materials. The end result of this constant sweeping is that the mucus is ushered toward drainage openings into the nasal cavity, and from there it can either be expelled by blowing the nose, or it will simply be swallowed and processed in the gastrointestinal tract.
Indicators of Mucus Problems
There are several indicators which tell you there’s some kind of problem with mucus, often because it’s associated with an infection. Since mucus is normally clear, if you should observe that it becomes yellow, brown, green, gray, white, or even bloody, this could be a sign of a major infection from bacteria, virus, or fungus particles.
The reason for this color change is that the white blood cells in mucus produce enzymes to repel invaders when they encounter any kind of infectious organism. The enzymes produced by the mucus have a tendency to turn it green, and if that remains in place overnight, it can then change into several other colors as described above.
Another indicator of a problem with mucus is the amount that the body generates. Healthy people will generally have clear-colored mucus, and will not even notice any amounts that are produced by the body, since all the work is carried on in the background. Whenever you begin to cough up significant amounts of mucus, that is a likely indicator of an allergic reaction or some kind of infection.
The thickness of mucus is also a frequent indicator of ill health, because thick mucus can clog the throat and become noticeable as it impacts the voice. Thick mucus inhibits vocal cord movement, and the associated post-nasal drip may cause persistent coughing, as well as changes in taste or in smell.
There may also be a burning sensation in the throat because mucus is dripping down the throat, and since it’s naturally acidic, that can be an irritation to the lining of the throat. That’s why it’s very common for someone to wake up with a sore throat when there’s some kind of infection occurring in the body – mucus drainage, which has occurred during sleep hours, has caused noticeable irritation in the lining of the throat.
When an adult experiences a sudden nosebleed with no apparent cause, there could be many things that triggered it. While unexplained nosebleeds might seem serious, in most cases they aren’t.
If it turns out that there’s a specific medical condition that triggered the nosebleed, your physician will advise you on what steps to take next. If you regularly experience unexplained nosebleeds, you should notify your doctor, so that they can give you an accurate diagnosis of the causes of your nosebleeds. In this article, we will examine some of the most common causes of a sudden nosebleed, and how to treat and prevent this condition.
Quick Fix: Buy a Humidifier
Sometimes the cause of a sudden nosebleed can be something as simple as very dry air brought about by constant indoor heating. Dry air is a relatively common situation in cold weather when a heating system might be running for most of the day, with no humidifier at work to restore moisture.
Nosebleeds can also occur when someone is exposed to cold weather for a prolonged period. Both these scenarios cause the lining of the nose to dry out, crack and bleed. To prevent the indoor heating cause, you can make sure your home is adequately humidified, especially during the cold season when the heat is on. For someone who has to spend long hours outdoors, the best preventive measure is to use a nasal spray which artificially moistens the inner lining of the nose.
Underlying Medical Conditions
There are certain medical conditions which inhibit your body’s ability to form blood clots, and that can trigger nosebleeds at virtually any time. Kidney disease, liver disease, and persistent excess consumption of alcohol can all act to interfere with clotting and induce a sudden nosebleed.
This condition can also be caused by congestive heart failure, high blood pressure and hypertensive crisis, which is a sudden blood pressure escalation coupled with anxiety, breathing difficulty, and an intense headache. There are also some very common medical conditions which can contribute to the triggering of nosebleeds, such as colds and allergies, as well as just blowing your nose frequently. All these can severely irritate the nasal lining, and trigger spontaneous nosebleeds.
Blood Thinners and NSAIDs
Many medications which are used to treat pain can have the side effect of triggering nosebleeds. Included in this category are aspirin, anticoagulant medications, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). Blood thinners like these inhibit the body’s ability to generate clots, and that means they can not only cause a nosebleed but can make it much harder to stop one that has started.
These kinds of medications are often prescribed for someone who has an irregular heartbeat, or someone who has had an actual heart attack. Since blood clots can cause a stroke or heart attack if they travel through the body and lodge near the brain or heart, people with heart conditions are often prescribed blood thinning medications which act to deter clotting.
Persistent Nose Scratching
The cause for a nosebleed can sometimes be a little more obvious, such as the case for someone who is constantly picking or scratching. This kind of activity can easily injure blood vessels in the nostrils, causing nosebleeds that seem to come out of nowhere. This kind of nosebleed is most common with small children.
What to Do With a Sudden Nosebleed
Most nosebleeds can be stopped or treated at home, without the need to seek medical treatment. If home treatment methods fail to get it under control, you should find medical attention, even though such situations are rarely life-threatening.
One technique for stopping a nosebleed is to sit down and lean forward, using direct pressure against the nostrils to pinch them closed for approximately 10 minutes. During that span, you’ll have to breathe through your mouth. It may also help to spray your nostrils with a nasal decongestant, because that constricts the blood vessels, and limits blood flow through the nose.
Once you have stopped the nosebleed, you can prevent it from recurring by using topical ointments and saline inside the nostrils. And of course, you should avoid any further irritation of the nose from scratching or nose-picking.
Especially for patients who take blood thinners, medical attention is their best option. These anticoagulants will decrease the body’s ability to clot and stop the nosebleed, and talking to your doctor will help them modify the dosage of any blood-thinning medication you might be taking or change it altogether.
If you have more than one nosebleed in the same week, that’s a definite sign that you should talk to your doctor. In most cases, sudden unexplained nosebleeds are not serious medical conditions, but when they happen more frequently in a short timeframe, they can be warning signs of more concerning health conditions.
In our noses are about six million smell receptors and about four hundred different types. How these receptors are spread out varies according to each person, and because of this variance, to each his or her own sense of smell. Yes, we each have a unique smelling nose. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Weizmann Institute researchers discovered how to identify an individual’s sense of smell, which they’re calling an “olfactory fingerprint.”
The importance of this study is that each one’s smell fingerprint may lead to many medical improvements from early diagnosis of degenerative brain disorders to a non-invasive test for matching donor organs.
The method to this madness is based on how similar or different two odors are from one another. In the first stage of the experiment, scientists asked the volunteers to rate 28 different smells according to 54 different descriptive words, like “lemony,” or “masculine.” Dr. Lavi Secundo led the study, along with Drs. Kobi Snitz and Kineret Weissler, all members of the lab of Prof. Noam Sobel of the Weizmann Institute’s Neurobiology Department. They developed a multidimensional mathematical formula that allows patients to identify how similar any two odors are to one another in the human sense of smell. This formula does not require the subjects to agree on the use and validity of any one given verbal descriptor; so the fingerprint is odor dependent but descriptor and language independent.
The next stage of the research suggested that our olfactory fingerprint may tie in with another system of ours in which we all differ – the immune system. They found, for example, that an immune antigen called HLA, today used to assess matches for organ donation, is correlated with certain olfactory fingerprints. This part of the study was conducted together with Drs. Ron Loewenthal, and Nancy Agmon-Levin, and Prof. Yehuda Shoenfeld, all of Sheba Medical Center.
So might this work for millions of patients? The researchers say that their figures prove that 28 odors alone could be used to “fingerprint” two million people, and that it would only take 34 odors to identify seven billion individuals on the planet.
But this smell fingerprinting could lead beyond identifying individuals, because it could be developed into methods for the early detection of diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer‘s, and it could lead to non-invasive methods for screening donor matches.
That nasal passage infections have been an important area of research for ENT specialists is no secret. Research in morphology and bacteria have recently yielded some crucial research in infections that originate in the nasal passage ways. Some animals are physically shaped by their environment in whole, not just in part. For example, earthworms are entirely slender so that they can weave in and out of narrow spaces in the ground. Evolution plays a key role in such benefits. But does that hold for all things big and microscopic? Interestingly, bacteria come in two shapes: there’s the spherical bacterium (coccus) and the stick-shaped (bacillus)?
Biologists and morphologists wonder if there’s a reason behind why one is spherical and the other slender-shaped. After analyzing pathogenic bacteria living in the nasopharynx, the upper part of the nose, questions of shape have been answered. These bacteria have changed over time, evolving from bacillus to coccus. In an article published in the journal PLOS Genetics, Professor Frédéric Veyrier, of INRS-Institut Armand-Frappier Research Centre, along with his colleagues, demonstrated that the change may have occurred to allow bacteria to pass through the defenses of their host’s immune system.
Respiratory infections are the number three cause of death worldwide. So understanding how these bacteria, or pathogens, make it into the upper respiratory passage way is critical. These pathogens are highly evolved, some so well that bacteria like Neisseria meningitidis and Moraxella catharralis can sometimes cause severe infections in humans. Genetic analysis of the ancestors of these bacteria pinpointed a key gene: yacF. The absence of this gene makes it possible for the shape of these bacteria to evolve. The N. meningitidis and M. catharralis found today in humans are spherical and missing the yacF gene.
The bacteria’s changing from stick-shaped to spherical has allowed the composition of certain molecules on their surface to transform. These molecules, peptidoglycans, play a vital role in how the immune system recognizes bacteria.
“We have long believed that the shape of bacteria was a fixed variable,” noted Professor Veyrier. “We even use it as a way to classify bacteria. Some mystery remains as to how the various species regulate their shape. This research demonstrates that the environment in which the bacteria evolve has an impact on their morphology. These are exciting results because we were able to identify the same change in two different species–and therefore its impact could be a key aspect in the specific way these pathogens are adapting to the human nasopharynx.”
By deepening our understanding of the evolution of bacteria, researchers believe they’ll be able to create new tactics that will prevent severe infections, even those related to sinus infections. This research about bacteria evolving over time could lead to preventing and treating such nasal passage infections that attack more than your head and sinuses, but your entire body.
Sense of Smell Impairment: It Can Be Treated
Sitting down to a meal puts our brains into overdrive. One of the first things we notice is how that meal smells. We may first see it with our eyes. And we might have heard the clatter of plates as it’s brought out to us. But it is the sense of smell that links a meal to our memory. Next, we excitedly lift our forks to our mouths and taste that first mouth-watering bite. Our sense of smell and taste may be taken for granted at times, but they add richness to our life. Unfortunately, sense of smell impairment does occur and your sense of taste can become impaired. Taste and smell are linked and, in fact, what is often thought of as taste may actually be smell. If your sense of taste and smell has degraded there is help.
There are numerous reasons for the loss or impairment of our sense of smell. The olfactory nerve, the one responsible for smell, can be damaged. It is possible for certain environmental factors to disrupt the process. For example, smoking and secondhand cigarette smoke can adversely affect this sense. Exposure to toxic materials can cause damage as well. Certain events such as head or neck trauma, cancer treatments, and other factors can also have a negative effect on smell and taste. Some causes are physiological. Degenerative nerve disease, nasal polyps, chronic infection, and conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes can all play a role in loss of smell. The list continues, but these are some of the main categories with potentially the greatest risk.
The list of what could be affecting your sense of smell may be long, but there are treatments available. The first step is to evaluate how pronounced your sense of smell impairment is and then to pinpoint what is causing it. The next step is to have the correct treatment prescribed and to preserve this important sensory faculty.
Men With Attractive Body Types Also Have Less Nasal Bacteria
Adding insult to injury, men with body types that are considered more traditionally attractive also seem to have less nasal bacteria than more heavyset men. A recent study seems to have proved that body mass index (BMI) is somehow linked to nasal pathogens in the male gender.
The study included 90 men and over 100 women. All were in good health at the time of the study. While weights were taken from the patient on the honor system, the researchers actually measured the hip and waist circumferences of participants to get a fairly accurate BMI.
Researchers actually performed the test from an evolutionary stand point. The idea of survival of the fittest would presuppose that the more attractive members of a species should also be the healthiest, thus producing the best offspring. The results of the test were mixed. While traditionally attractive men had fewer bacteria in their nasal passages, BMI seemed to have no connection with nasal health in the women.
A study of this nature may never have been conducted before that specifically tried to link physical attractiveness with health. Of course, the hypothesis cannot be confirmed by this test since the results were only as expected in the male gender.
Throat and nose swabs were used on the participants to check their passageways for six particular pathogens. When it came to the men, it seemed that the higher a person’s BMI was, the more these bacteria had colonized the area. The actual reasons for the link are still unknown, since in this particular case, the researchers really were just trying to link good looks and good health.
So what does all this mean? Well guys, it looks like if want better nasal health, one of the keys may be hitting the gym and following up on your New Year’s resolution to get in shape.